Winning isn’t the most important thing in professional sports. Winning is the only thing in professional sports. The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been doing much of that lately and the natives have been more than restless. I am sure that uneasiness has filtered all the way to the top of the organization, but management has remained steadfast to stay the course. As written in a recent Wojnarowski article about Blatt, “‘There is not even a thought of replacing him,’ one high-ranking Cavaliers official told Yahoo Sports”
That is what I would expect of a high class organization that wants to not only win but become a perennial winner. The San Antonio Spurs were not built in a day. It took patience and perseverance and, at times, putting up with a pretty surly coach. Many, including the talking heads of ESPN, are calling for Blatt’s job. They say it can’t work. Well it can work as long as one ingredient is present, a fully engaged and healthy LeBron James. And as long as the key result is obtained, winning. Some say that this combination of factors are impossible to reach because LeBron won’t allow it. Well, just like with Miami, if the organization remains steadfast and makes it clear that it must work, LeBron will jump on board. As Wojnarowski said “Blatt told Yahoo Sports. ‘It really has to come first from the professional side. Man to man, we’re OK. We don’t go out drinking together, but we’re fine man to man. But professionally, LeBron wants to win. And he wants from me, from any coach, a vehicle to help him win.'” As long as they start winning and working together, those things will move forward.
The same can be said for the “fit” of Kevin Love on the Cavaliers. I find it amusing how rabid Cleveland fans were to go out and get Love at any price, including for Andrew Wiggins and much more. Now, I’ll bet even some of those same fans, are calling for us to trade Love at almost any cost. From a strategic point of view, I think to trade FOR Love at his peak of value and then to trade AWAY Love at his lowest value in years makes about as much sense as drinking battery acid (as a colleague from WFNY recently tweeted). So I am not in favor of that brilliant strategy.
Kevin Love will fit when he does whatever it takes to win. If you listen to him carefully, he made it clear that he was embarrassed by his performance against Phoenix. In contrast to others who freaked at the thought of Blatt not playing him again in a fourth quarter, he was determined to prove his metal and his worth to the team against LA. He put on one of the toughest performances of his career while in constant pain highlighted by a defensive play. In that game, he proved something to LeBron, his coach, and his teammates. As LeBron correctly has pointed out on several occasions now, that is the kind of effort that builds a team and a winner.
Kevin Love can play adequate defense. He has never needed to commit to that side of the floor but that is about to change. I think he knows that. I think the light is going on. Plus, better defensive players are about to be placed around him when Marion, Shumpert and LeBron are on the floor. This will all lead to a better brand of defense both with and without Love on the floor. It takes time. He will get that time and so will Blatt. So we had better simply get used to it and look for the bright spots as they come instead of looking for the obvious deficiencies.
My point is that when a team is losing everything looks awful. Coaches and players alike can and should be questioned about their effectiveness. So all of that is understandable. However, the old saying of “You are never as bad as you look when you are losing and never as good as you look when you are winning” probably applies here. The Cavs are not nearly as bad a team as they looked for the past several weeks. But, with the sweep of LA, we can see some glimpses of better times. It seems evident that more good times are ahead. There will be bumps along the way and terrible sickening games, but logic dictates that if LeBron is healthy those games will be few and bumps small.
More change is not an answer to the problems. No matter how much you hate Blatt or how much you despise Love’s defense replacing them will not fix the main problem that faces the Cavs. The Cavs need to dig in and follow the damn commercial. 1-2-3 HARD WORK. 4-5-6 TOGETHER. They can’t expect an easy answer and they damn sure can’t point the finger at their coaches or teammates. They need to look in the mirror and take on the challenge to be great. The fans need to quit crying all over social media about who they want fired or traded. Change in a business is death to that business. When someone needs to be fired, fine. But continuity and consistency is a better formula to success. With the recent signs from Love, LeBron and Irving, some of that individual accountability seems to be taking hold.
The real problem with the Cleveland Cavaliers is inconsistent effort and lack of trust in their coaches and teammates. Instead of pointing fingers they need to be joining hands and doing whatever they can do individually to make it work. Fight through adversity. Fight for each other. Fight to win. Some opponents need to find themselves lying on the court after drives and grabbing their heads and faces after inadvertent active hands strike or scrape.
If each player and coach took responsibility for their own actions and saw that the vision of winning is found in the mirror, there would be no need for scapegoats. The Cavaliers are supremely talented but have been supremely soft. That needed to change. I hope it started in LA.